Dawn’s the time to oil the joints

Wednesday morning.

Durban’s silent, surrounded by a thick wall of darkness. The birds and insects are still quiet, asleep.

The geriatric stray cat that moved in a few months ago — Catastrophe as she is known — hasn’t started whining at the back door for her breakfast yet, so it’s well short of 5am.

Catastrophe’s deaf and afraid of everything around her, so she tries to get fed before the hadedas and mongeese (or are they mongooses?) arrive and steal her food. When she arrived, she was eating out of the rubbish bin at the back door. Now she’s turning her nose up at Pampers, preferring Catmor or shredded chicken.

I have given up trying to sleep.

Deadline dreams and arthritis in my shoulders have been breaking my sleep for the past hour or so. My body feels too heavy for my joints. The left shoulder aches worse than the right, courtesy of a fall off a moving car during my misspent youth, when I broke my arm and shoulder in seven places.

I accept the inevitable. Haul myself out of bed. Get my bearings.

I check the cellphone.

There’s the usual slurry of rantings from the would-be WhatsApp “influencers” with “tip-offs” about the relationship between President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Motsepe family.

There’s a video of the former president, Jacob Zuma, smiting imaginary enemies with a knobkerrie, presumably in the name of Radical Economic Transformation.

There are some quasi-religious inspirational messages from a crazed business cat who has been bugging me to get involved in his personal war with an allegedly dodgy magistrate for the past few months. A press alert from the Khoisan Defence League. Some right-wing shit justifying Zionist genocide in Gaza.

I delete the lot. It’s too early for toxic drivel. Don’t these muppets sleep?

I check the time. It’s 4.20am, the magic moment, as it were, for cannabis consumers around the world.

The term is stoner code, based on a survey in the United States in the 1970s, which found that one in five Americans used cannabis. One in five in disguise is four 20. Like I say, stoner code.

I wonder what the figure is today? More like one in three, or two, depending,literally, on what state you’re in.

I resist the temptation to spark one up in honour of the auspicious moment and to dull the ache that’s forced me out of sleep. And to block out the muppets.

There’s too much to do. No time for meandering thought processes, breaks for the munchies. There are deadlines to meet. It’s a short week, with the Women’s Day holiday on Thursday bringing deadlines forward, so there’s no window of opportunity for a morning wake and bake.

Uzoks is turning 12 today, so I also want to have a special breakfast ready for him when he gets up for school. Our man is a top laaitie. Gentle, artistic, funny, a boy with a beautiful heart. He’s at the last stage of that innocence, when his mother is still God and the world is still full of wonder.

I wish I were his age.

I opt for some non-psychoactive cannabidiol oil instead. It’s legal — or at least not overtly illegal — because it doesn’t have the tetrahydrocannabinol that makes the consumer stoned.

It’s not as much fun as the full plant oil but the medicinal effect is magnificent, with none of the dry mouth and kidney damage that comes with taking painkillers and anti-inflammatories daily.

I wonder how long it will take for the ANC to overcome its social conservatism, do the right thing and legalise cannabis? The governing party doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to do so, which is weird, given the numbers that are involved in the industry around the world.

Legalising medicinal and recreational cannabis would provide the state with tax revenue to replace some of the billions stolen during the Zuma years. Create some jobs. Empty some prison cells. Free up some cops to fight crime. Heal some people. Chill a lot of muppets out.

Photographer Peter McKenzie introduced me to the full plant oil when he was battling cancer of the liver. It offset the toxic effects of the chemotherapy drugs he was taking. The chemo was heavy. It turned the skin under his eyes green. The oil helped Peter to eat, sleep, function. Gave him the strength to laugh, even in the face of death. Numbed the burning in his hands after treatment.

Until then, as a lifelong stoner, I had been a bit sceptical about the medicinal side of cannabis. Figured it was all a bit of a con, an excuse to get an undercover high going. Watching Peter use it as a weapon in his fight for survival changed all that. Made a believer out of me.

Peter beat cancer. Peter swore his victory was, at least in part, because of the oil.

Peter died from a heart attack. Peter’s been gone almost a year now.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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